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Oxford Chinese Dictionary - upcoming interview with Chief Editor


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#1 share roddy

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 03:42 PM

As some of you have already noted, Oxford University Press are in the process of launching a huge Chinese-English English-Chinese dictionary, after many many years of hard work by an almost infinite number of editors and translators.

Later in the week, at an actual time to be determined, I'm going to be sitting down with Julie Kleeman, one of the two chief editors on the project.

So, I'm looking for questions - if there's anything you'd like to know about the dictionary or the process of putting it together, stick your question in here and I'll make sure to ask as many as I can.

Also, I'm hoping to actually do the interview via posting on here, so anyone online at the time can jump in with their own questions. That's going to depend on scheduling me Julie into the same place at the same time, so it might not be possible - but hopefully, and I'll let you know as and when that will be.

I'm also working on getting a free copy or two from the OUP vaults - if anyone wants one, let us know what you'll do in exchange.
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#2 share liuzhou

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 06:55 PM

A main point that came up on the other thread was the paper v. electronic dictionary debate. She does mention it briefly in the Danwei interview I linked to, but I'd like to hear more of her thoughts on this.

What would I do for a free copy? The medics have told me I have to give that sort of behaviour up! And the Mrs says "Not another freaking dictionary!" At least that is my interpretation of her outburst in some unidentifiable dialect.

Now that would be useful! A Chinese Wife-English / English -Chinese Wife dictionary. If you send me a free dictionary, I promise to write one. Sometime in the next three hundred years.


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#3 share James Johnston

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 07:49 PM

I think there is an interesting question to be asked about how a good dictionary deals with the contrasting aesthetics associated with fixed idioms in Chinese and English. I'm not referring to the obvious (and endlessly repeated) issue of the difficulty of translating chengyu into English, but rather the very different aesthetic judgements that are associated with these types of phrases in Chinese and English. While liberally using chengyu in Chinese is a sign of a high-level of education and literacy, the English equivalents are often old-fashioned, hackneyed clichés, which are best avoided as they suggest an inability to an express an idea in an imaginative way.

So how can a dictionary help steer Chinese learners of English away from treating English idioms with the reverence they apply to chengyu, while also helping English-learners of Chinese to find when something might best be said in the form of a chengyu?

Obviously, there are limits to what a dictionary can do and experience of the language is essential, but how can a dictionary help with these aesthetic issues?
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#4 share realmayo

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 09:04 PM

James, does that come down to whether a foreign-language dictionary's prime function is to explain what a foreign word means, or to suggest its equivalent in your language? I imagine it's the former; if so, it shouldn't be too great a problem. The WSJ article linked to in the other post does mention the problem of chengyus. But I agree, it would be nice to hear more about how they dealt with them.

Roddy, I would also like to know:
- if they indicate when the Chinese words began to be used (or at least written down). EDIT: I mean, if they show when a particular usage became current.
- if they plan to release updates in the future
- what they mean by "Chinese". Is the dictionary based on 普通话, with occasional references to usage outside of the mainland? How about 'dialects' within the mainland: would a non-普通话 expression very commonly used in Beijing be included, but not a word commonly used in (say) Chengdu?
- if they felt that everyday language in the mainland has been influenced by the preferred language and syntax of Chinese government officials, via the very heavy play their speeches etc get (more so in the past) across newspapers, radio and TV.
- for dictionaries like this, would you broadly have Chinese speakers doing Chinese to English, and English speakers English to Chinese (or vice versa)? Or is there no such split? And did there seem to be any clear distinction between how the two sets treated their own language (ie more flexible, more prescriptive etc)?
- finally, did they find the distinction between 书面语 and 口语 holds true in the same way for English as it does for Chinese?

Ha, too many questions, sorry!
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#5 share James Johnston

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Posted 30 August 2010 - 09:33 PM

does that come down to whether a foreign-language dictionary's prime function is to explain what a foreign word means, or to suggest its equivalent in your language?

Given the limited space in a single volume bilingual dictionary, I imagine doing the former usually necessitates the latter. Of course, as someone who does research on China, I'd love lengthy linguistic and etymological analyses of many Chinese terms, but I don't expect to find it.

One of the advantages of digital dictionaries is that they don't need to worry about the cost implications of publishing extra information. They can have layers of information for those who want more than a simple translation. Paper dictionaries need to keep everything tight and easily presentable. To put this in context, I hear that the 3rd edition of the Oxford English Dictionary which they've been working on for 21 years will probably never be published in printed form:

http://www.telegraph...nted-again.html

(with apologies for linking to the Telegraph)
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#6 share gato

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 12:54 AM

While liberally using chengyu in Chinese is a sign of a high-level of education and literacy, the English equivalents are often old-fashioned, hackneyed clichés, which are best avoided as they suggest an inability to an express an idea in an imaginative way.

I don't want to get too off-topic here, but just wanted to point out that we discussed this issue before, in the thread below and I think in some other threads I can't find:
http://www.chinese-f...-english-style/
Chinese style vs. English style

We can take the discussion to the other thread. A short version of my current view is that the counterpart of chengyu's in a European language would be words that are considered to be more sophisticated (used to be called "twenty-dollar words" back in the day) rather than what's called "idioms" in English. The Chinese counter-part to "idioms" in English is more like 俗语 (which can also be more 4 characters long). For instance, "不三不四" is 俗语 and not chengyu. 俗语 are colloquial idioms, whereas chengyu are written, literary idioms.
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#7 share Xiwang

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 09:26 AM

1. What were the biggest internal debates at Oxford University Press regarding the style or methodology to be adopted for the dictionary?

2. What criteria do OUP use in creating example sentences?

3. What was the role (as mentioned on the dictionary's cover) of the Foreign Language Training and Research Press in the development of the dictionary?
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#8 share roddy

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 11:10 AM

Excellent, thanks folks. Keep 'em coming.
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#9 share Daan

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 03:26 PM

Some dictionaries, such as the ones published by the Far East Book Co, can be used to read both modern and classical texts. Does this new dictionary contain words that have fallen out of use, but which may still be encountered by advanced students reading Lǔ​ Xùn​ or even the Analects? Personally, I think such words should be listed in more specialised dictionaries only, but I would like to know what the OUP's stance on this is.

I could also write a review, but as I'm pretty sure our library will be ordering several copies, you may want to give the free ones to someone else as I would not really need one to write a review :)
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#10 share Taibei

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 09:14 PM

Roddy, I'd be interested in putting forward some questions. But a lot of those would depend on just what the pages of the dictionary look like. Is it possible to find out before the interview how entries are organized (full Pinyin order (e.g. DeFrancis's ABC series) vs. individual Hanzi in Pinyin order), what fonts are used, how word parsing is handled, etc.?

Are there any PDFs or even GIFs of sample pages? I haven't been able to find any yet.
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#11 share roddy

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 09:25 PM

Have asked, and also 'invited' someone with a copy to take a photo . . .
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#12 share gato

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 09:53 PM

Given that many in the target market for this new dictionary already have the ABC Dictionary, an obvious question would be what are the benefits of this new dictionary over the ABC Dictionary. The more detailed the comparison the better.
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#13 share Brian US

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 10:05 PM

I want to put it on my ipod. I am willing to pay.
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#14 share roddy

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 09:46 AM

Attaching a marketing PDF which has some images of different types of entries.

Attached Files


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#15 share Kobo-Daishi

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 10:10 AM

Dear all,

Gato wrote:

Given that many in the target market for this new dictionary already have the ABC Dictionary, an obvious question would be what are the benefits of this new dictionary over the ABC Dictionary.

XXXXX

I don't know if it's exactly a given.

I haven't a copy of any of the ABC dictionaries.

But then I haven't bought a Chinese-English dictionary in ages.

I was searching Amazon trying to find scans of pages from the new Oxford dictionary, to see if they have a "look inside" for it, (this was before Roddy put up the pdf) and not knowing the exact title of the new Oxford entered a search for "Chinese English dictionary".

The ABC dictionaries are on the third page at numbers 27 and 30. This is based on relevancy to the search terms not sales rank.

For sales rank, the "Bestsellers in Chinese" under "Any Category > Books > Reference > Dictionaries & Thesauruses > Foreign Language > Chinese (Updated hourly)", the Oxford titles tower above any of the other true dictionaries.

bestsellers in Chinese dictionaries

I guess it's the name recognition factor. The Oxford brand.

They only list 100 books but none of the ABCs are there. But then they have the Integrated Chinese series under "dictionaries & thesauruses". Go figure.

Kobo-Daishi, PLLA.
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#16 share roddy

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 10:57 AM

Some questions of my own . . .

What happens to the team who worked on this now? Do you disband and go find other jobs, or does work on the next edition start immediately?

Electronic versions - what are we going to have in terms of desktop, mobile and web versions, will these be Oxford's in-house products or in partnership with the likes of Pleco Software? And if you happen to have any timetables . . .

With electronic versions - we now see with Google and Sougou Pinyin IMEs regular updates of new vocabulary being delivered to our computers automatically. How long until our electronic dictionaries automatically download the latest dictionary entries for us?

Which words do you regret having to leave out?

Are there going to be different mainland / overseas editions - both in terms of content, but also print / paper quality and price?
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#17 share Mugi

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 12:23 PM

Based on the "breath" entry, I don't think I'll be rushing to buy a copy. A significant number of the idioms have not been translated accurately into Chinese. Hopefully this is just a poorly selected example and is not representative of the rest of the EC portion of the dictionary. But if that's not the case, then it looks like they used inexperienced/poorly skilled checkers/editors.

I would be interested in knowing what OUP's criteria were for selecting the EC checkers/editors (& translators), and for that matter, what the criteria were for the CE translators, checkers and editors.
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#18 share gato

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 01:00 PM

From the sample pages, I notice that the E-C entries all have English definitions followed by Chinese translation, and then example sentences/phrases using the English words, followed by Chinese translations. However, the C-E entries have only Chinese definitions, with much more sparse usage examples. The C-E examples are only very short Chinese phrases and no full sentences.

These differences between the E-C and C-E entries makes me think that the dictionary might be better for Chinese learners of English than foreign learners of Chinese. A learners of Chinese, I think, would need a lot more examples of how the Chinese words are used, particularly the chengyus. Perhaps Roddy can ask about how the design choice was made.

p.s.
"blogging = 博客维护" and "歌星 = singing star" seemed flawed.
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#19 share Daan

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 02:28 PM

Er...the E-C entries do not have pīnyīn. Right? And the cultural notes do not have tone marks on the pīnyīn either. How are they supposed to be useful to Chinese learners? Why did they not include pīnyīn? The Oxford Starter Chinese Dictionary has pīnyīn everywhere, both in its C-E entries and in its E-C entries. It's also sorted alphabetically, like the ABC dictionary, and unlike this new dictionary which uses the Chinese system. Why's that? I assume it's because they've intended this mainly as a dictionary for Chinese learners of English, but I'd like to know what benefits they think the Chinese system has.
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#20 share James Johnston

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Posted 01 September 2010 - 04:41 PM

The absence of pinyin the English and Chinese tells me:

1) OUP are clearly focused on the Chinese market for students of English. Fair enough, it's by far the bigger market and OUP need to make money, but disappointing from my point of view, as I need every help possible to re-enforce the correct pronunciation, especially tones.

2) I'd be better off waiting for a digital version, where the problem will doubtless be solved with a click or a hover of the mouse. The Danwei interview suggested that the web version of this dictionary isn't available yet and if you buy the paper version you are just getting access to the old Oxford dictionary.

So that's a question: when will they be updating the web dictionary?
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